With blueberry season in full swing, now is the time to stock your fridge and freezer with as many local, fresh batches of blue as you can.
When it comes to annual fruit harvests, why do we allow apples all the glory? Growing up in Maine, the summer blueberry harvest was the star of the show. As the days warmed up and July rolled into August, all eyes were fixed on the low shrubs that grew wild in the field behind our farmhouse. One by one, the green berries would morph to deep indigo blue, and soon my entire family would depart for the field and spend hours hunched over the blueberry bushes, rolling the ripe berries off gently with our thumbs, visions of blueberry pie, jam, and bowls of blueberries and cream running through our heads (if you’ve never experienced the joy of a big bowl of fresh blueberries and local cream, I urge you to pause here and go find yourself some. Sub almond or coconut milk if you’d like. It’s as simple as it sounds. Pour a cup of blueberries in a bowl, cover with cream of choice, eat it with a spoon, bliss out. It’s like cereal, only infinitely better). To this day I judge a batch of blueberry-anything by the presence of a few sticks and twigs — a leaf here and there — the sign of a truly earnest beginning.
Of course, these little berries are more than just delicious. Over the past several years, blueberries have gained wide acclaim for their high levels of antioxidants (their ORAC score is above 9,000, which means they boast one of the highest levels of antioxidants out there) and collagen-boosting anthocyanidins, not to mention fiber, vitamins and minerals.
With blueberry season in full swing, now is the time to stock your fridge and freezer with as many local, fresh batches of blue as you can. Want to know why? Today, I’m diving into the health benefits of blueberries, from their energizing color to their brain-boosting power, and be sure to scroll to the bottom to learn how to use blueberries in your beauty routine!
What are they? From the genus Vaccinium (the same genus as huckleberries and cranberries), wild blueberries are the berries that grow on the blueberry bush, a low shrub that grows predominantly in North America (one of the few fruits actually native to North America). Blueberry bushes can vary in height from a few inches (typically what is known as the ‘lowbush’ blueberry, producing smaller berries than what you see in your local grocer) to several feet (conversely known as ‘highbush’ and producing much larger berries). Depending on conditions, blueberry season can vary between May and August, with the Northeast United States fruiting later in the growing season. While related, blueberries are not the same thing as their English cousin, the bilberry, and the two can be distinguished by their internal color; when cut in two, bilberries have a reddish interior, while blueberries are light green.
What are the benefits? With an ORAC (that stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score of roughly 9,600, blueberries boast one of the highest levels of antioxidants out there, making them ideal for anyone who wants to boost their collagen levels, neutralize free-radicals, and generally glow from the inside out (read: all of us). Their dark skin contains anthocyanins and anthocyanidins, the deep antioxidant pigments that hold the key to blueberries’ anti-aging properties that, when consumed, boost our body’s ability to produce collagen, thus making us look younger with more vibrant skin. Low on the glycemic index, blueberries are also a good source of heart healthy fiber, vitamin C, manganese and vitamin K.
How do I use them? My favorite thing about super-fruits and vegetables like blueberries is that, for the most part, all you need to do is eat ‘em. To reap the most benefit from their antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber, blueberries are best consumed raw, which is perfect because they’re delicious! For an added energy boost, try tossing a handful on salads, oatmeal, yogurt or granola or mixing with other fruits for a fruit salad — it’s hard not to smile when you’re greeted by a big burst of color sitting before you on the table. Blueberries are also delicious mixed into baked goods, smoothies and other treats, and can even be used in your beauty routine! Read on for a late summer face mask DIY to get your skin glowing.
Blueberry-Honey Face Mask
Small handful of fresh blueberries (organic is best, but use what ya got)
¼ – ½ cup full-fat yogurt
1 tsp raw honey
A few drops sweet almond or jojoba oil
Combine all ingredients in a small blender and blend until smooth (you can also mash together in a bowl). Apply immediately to a clean, dry face and allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry. Follow with moisturizer of choice.
The blueberries will infuse your skin with redness-reducing vitamins A and C, antioxidants and phytochemicals while the lactic acid present in the yogurt sloughs away dead skin, revealing a brightened complexion. Moisture-boosting raw honey staves off bacteria and, coupled with the oil, infuses skin with much-needed moisture.
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